Miriam’s artist choice of the month
Tracey Snelling is an American contemporary artist working with photography, video, performance and installation. She was born in Oakland (California) and studied Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico. Her environments reflect architectural conditions and its sociological contextualization and allow a voyeuristic glimpse. In her large space filling architectures the viewers’ perception is of high significance. Playing within small and life size formats her ‘sculptures’ involve us getting testimonies of the current surrounding of the artists’ habitat in Berlin. Until April 2018, Snelling is holding a fellowship/studio at the internationally renowned artist residency Künstlerhaus Bethanien in the neighborhood Kreuzberg next to Kottbusser Tor. The Californian had exhibitions in international galleries and museums such as MAD New York, Royal Palace Milan, Königliches Museum der Schönen Künste Belgium and many others. In 2015 she has been awarded a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant. Art night: Miriam Bers met Tracey Snelling for an exclusive interview:
MB: Living in Berlin almost a year, do you feel integrated, part of the city? What does Berlin mean to you?
TS: I actually first moved to Berlin in February 2016, staying seven months and returning to Oakland. Upon returning, I realized I belonged back in Berlin. I came back to Berlin in April 2017 to complete a sculptural commission with the Historisches Museum Frankfurt and to explore more of Berlin. I do feel integrated into the city. One of the reasons I came back was because it feels like home, yet it’s also exciting and new to me. Berlin means freedom to me. Here, you can be who you really are, and no one gives a second look. Berliners have seen everything here, and I think because of that, they are more relaxed about differences.
MB: In your current show at Künstlerhaus Bethanien and your in life size arranged and romantically appealing ‘Living Room’ and ‘Bedroom’ wrestlers, a punk band and you being tattooed were protagonists in one of the performances held during your exhibition. Do you identify with, do you live in these contexts? Here Nan Goldin comes into my mind. Or is your work rather a conceptual one, kind of a sympathizing absorption of more or less marginalized groups? The models of your sculpted housings are social buildings next to Kottbusser Tor.
TS: A lot of the room contexts, objects, and performances are references from my life, with many of them from my teenage time. I first heard the band Hertzangst play last year in Wedding when the drummer (a friend of mine) invited me to a show. I loved them, and immediately had a picture in my head of them playing in one of my installations. As for the tattoo, I already have three but have been wanting a tiger tattoo for quite awhile, and I met the tattoo artist at a previous residency here in Berlin, ZKU. I do muay thai kickboxing, and incorporated boxing into the opening night and closing night performances. The rooms are homage to my past, my present, and also my fantasies.
MB: How did you find your artistic language, focused on architectural contexts, what does the relation between small size dwellings and life size spaces mean in your work?
TS: I started as a photographer, and would also mix mediums. I started a series of collages and had made one called 1881 Chestnut Street. It’s a brick apartment building with the front wall missing, so you could see all the rooms. This piece gave me the idea to make a small-scale house that was collaged. From here the work continued to grow organically, with video being added to it in 2004. The difference in scale is really interesting to me. The shifts in scale represent how reality is constantly shifting due to one’s perception.
MB: What are your habits, do you live in Berlin like you’d live in Oakland, your hometown?
TS: Here, I go out more! It feels much easier to get around town here. In Oakland, it oftens feels like a trek to get to San Francisco for an art night of openings. There’s also so much to do here.
MB: Which are the spots you like most in Berlin? Do you have a favorite place to eat, a cool bar to go out in the evening? Or do cook in your residency?
TS: I like Berlin in the summer the best (of course). When I lived in Wedding in 2016, I would ride my bike to Mauerpark Sunday mornings, eat something, shop a bit in the used section, and go back to my studio to work. I like the Humboldthain park, the crazy little shops on Karl-Marx Strasse, the Turkish market near the Bethanien. I love the Turkish food nearby–so much to choose from. I never get tired of lamb kabap.
MB: What will you do after your fellowship ends?
TS: I have a month-long residency in New Orleans, an exhibition back home, will visit family and friends, and come back to Berlin.